William Fiennes, First Viscount Saye and Sele, (b.28 June
1582 – d.14 April 1662), called “Old Subtlety”, was a prominent puritan
politician, landowner and parliamentary leader in the 1630s and 1640s,
who opposed Charles I’s efforts to rule without Parliament. He was a
shareholder in the East India Company and with Robert Greville, the
second Baron Brooke of Warwick Castle,
was one of the founders of the Providence Island Company and a
co-founder of the independent colony of Saybrook in Connecticut in 1635.
In 1639 William refused to take the military Oath of
Allegiance to the King and Broughton Castle became a key meeting place
for politicians opposed to Charles I.
The Council Chamber where these meetings took place, under the cover of
meetings of the Providence Island Company, provided the privacy
necessary and is known as the “Room without ears”.
1642 William Fiennes raised a regiment of blue-coated foot soldiers and
four troops of horse for the Parliamentarian army in the Banbury area.
After the Earl of Northampton had seized arms and artillery for the King
from Banbury on 8 August to besiege Warwick Castle and the King had
raised his standard at Nottingham on 22 August,
William Fiennes used some of his troops to occupy Oxford on 14 September
son, Nathaniel Fiennes, led one of the troops of horse in the Earl of
Essex’s parliamentarian army to relieve Coventry in August
and later at the cavalry engagement at Powick Bridge on 23 September,
which is often seen as the start of the first civil war, before taking
part in the battle of Edgehill.
the early stages of the war, many of the soldiers in the units raised by
William Fiennes were drawn from his power base in and around Broughton
near Banbury in Northern Oxfordshire, although many of large local
estates remained loyal to Charles I.
Fiennes appointed experienced and prominent officers to his regiment of
foot, including Captain Lieutenant John Rainsford author of “The Yong
Soulldier” drill manual.
September 1642 William Fiennes handed command of the foot regiment to
Colonel Sir John Meldrum.
According to tradition the regiment slept at Broughton on the eve of the
battle of Edgehill.
The castle attic is still known as “The barracks”.
The regiment acquitted itself well during the battle on 23 October 1642,
where is fought as part of Meldrum’s brigade in the Parliamentarian
25 October, Essex withdrew the Parliamentarian Army to Warwick. The
King’s forces were then able to begin to march on London
and on 27 October attacked and captured Banbury.
Broughton Castle was attacked on the 26th October by Prince Rupert.
The garrison held out against Royalist forces for a day and a half.
Tradition has it that, wool packs were hung out on the walls to receive
the enemies’ shot.
The castle suffered some damage judging by the repairs in the hall, the
state of disrepair it fell into later and the cannon balls found in the
moat. These are now preserved in the house.
Parliamentarian pamphlet reported,
“It is certain that Prince Rupert hath plundered the Lord Say his house
But what startles us most is a warrant under his Majesty’s own hands for
the plundering of the Lord Say his house, and demolishing of it, and
invites people to doe it, with a grant unto them of all the materials of
clear suggestion is that Charles I ordered the pillaging of the house.